Who is Your Audience?

Portrait by Neil Ta / New Orleans, 2015
Portrait by Neil Ta / New Orleans, 2015

As photographers, we make photos to share them with others. I don’t trust any photographer who says that they only shoot for themselves.

I do believe that a lot of photographers shoot 90-95% for themselves— but the reason they make images is to (eventually) share those images with others.

For example, even Vivian Maier (who kept most of her photos to herself) had an inkling that one day she might publish and exhibit her photos. This can be strongly suggested from the documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” in which she approached a respectable art curator in her hometown.

Anyways, I want you to ask yourself the question: who is your audience for your photography?

Legit question

I got this idea from a conversation that my buddy Neil Ta had with Sara Lando (amazing portrait photographer) in Dubai, part of Gulf Photo Plus. Neil shared some of his panoramic X-Pan Cuba photos with Sara— and one of the questions Sara asked Neil was, “Who is your audience with these photos?” Neil paused, and had to consider whether he was making these photos for close friends, accomplished photographers, or just people on social media in general.

I need to ask myself the same question

New Orleans, 2015
New Orleans, 2015

To be truthful, I don’t ask myself the question “Who is my audience?” much at all. Even when I write these articles, I am not always sure who is going to read them— that is why I am trying to make them more personal (treating them more like letters addressed to you).

A lot of these letters that I write are almost like a conversation with my past self. And the photos that I shoot — I used to think that the “whole world” was my audience. But in reality, the only people who I really care about are my close friends, family, and colleagues in my photography community.

For a long time, I wanted “respect” and admiration from other photographers that I looked up to. These were the veteran street photographers (ones who have been shooting for 10+ years), as well as Magnum photographers. My dream was to one day create a portfolio that would cause people’s jaws to drop— and have them say, “Eric, you are a good photographer.”

Does it really matter?

But what do I care what these photographers think about my work? After all, in reality they are not my audience. These great photographers could care less about my work. And even if they liked my work, I don’t share a personal connection or relationship with them. They are effectively strangers. And why would I care what a stranger thinks about my photos?

In-fact, the ultimate judge of my photos should be myself. I have made a lot of photos which others like (but I personally don’t like). If this is the case, who am I really shooting for?

Time to reflect

New Orleans, 2015
New Orleans, 2015
  • Who is your audience for your photography?
  • If your audience is just a few of your Facebook friends or family— that is fine.
  • If your audience is for a few of your photography friends— that is fine.
  • If your audience is your partner — that is fine.
  • If your audience is just yourself— that is fine as well.

Shoot for yourself, and let everything follow.

Always,

Eric

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